The most successful team in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s brief history has finally won a premier tournament.
Swedish side Ninjas in Pyjamas have had no shortage of success since Global Offensive became the premier iteration of Counter-Strike. The team famously put together a two-year run in which they never finished outside of the top four at a live event, a run that at one point included over 80 consecutive match wins.
But one thing the team had never managed to accomplish was win a premier event. They finished as runners-up at both DreamHack Winter last year and at ESL Katowice in March.
The odds seemed stacked against the Swedes heading into this weekend’s ESL Cologne event. Their streak of top-four finishes had come to an end in dramatic fashion over the last two events in which they competed, the ESEA global final in Dallas and Gfinity 3 in London.
Their path in Cologne would be anything but easy.
Ninjas in Pyjamas suffered a loss to Epsilon during the group stage that forced them into a one-game elimination match with Hell Raisers, which the Swedish team was able to emerge from victorious.
This set a quarterfinal match with Cloud9, the American team formerly playing under the Complexity name. Cloud9 took the first game in the best-of-three series in dominant fashion and managed to bring both the second and third games to the final round of regulation. But each time, Ninjas in Pyjamas were able to step up when it mattered most to take the victories and move on.
The closeness of that series was repeated in the semifinals when the Swedes were matched up with French side LDLC. This was an awkward arrangement for both teams, as they had practiced extensively with one another coming into the event. That familiarity was evident in the closeness of the series, which saw Ninjas in Pyjamas win on the final round of regulation in the third and final game.
A finals meeting with fellow Swedish team Fnatic left Ninjas in Pyjamas fans fearing for a repeat of the finals at both DreamHack Winter 2013 and ESL Katowice, when the they were able to advance equally far only to fall just short of the finish line.
Such an outcome seemed likely when Fnatic were able to take a strong halftime lead in the third and decisive game of the finals after the two Swedish teams had split games one and two.
But a star performance from Christopher “Get Right” Alesund helped to pull Ninjas in Pyjamas from the jaws of defeat. The team even managed to win the game one round shy of the last of regulation with a final score of 16-13.
A raucous celebration followed as the Swedish team soaked in the moment. They were quickly awarded with the championship trophy and their share of a $250,000 prize.
The event wasn’t just a triumph for the Ninjas. It also marked a high point for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Overall viewership records were broken multiple times throughout the event, culminating in a combined total of over 400,000 spectators watching the final live.
The summer season will conclude with the Star Series final in Kiev, Ukraine on August 30.